Durban mortuary staff back at work after alleged lockout
On Wednesday workers who had been fired and those who were given final written warnings returned to work after the department discussed their concerns regarding working conditions with trade unions.
Workers, who earlier denied that they had embarked on a go-slow, have allegedly been locked out of the mortuary since November 29. They were handed a letter signed by head of department Dr Sandile Tshabalala informing them that they had to complete 12 post-mortems by 7pm on November 28.
Public and Allied Workers’ Union of SA (Pawusa) chairperson Halalisani Gumede said yesterday that all workers had returned to work and talks between the unions and employer were ongoing.
“We’re resolving the matter as best as we can. At least now we’re engaging, unlike before,” Gumede said.
He said union representatives from the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and Cosatu as well as other unions had been involved in the talks.
Gumede alleged that the department’s lockout was illegal because the mortuary was an essential service and workers’ issues were supposed to be handled differently. This was despite whether or not workers had embarked on a go-slow or strike.
Cosatu provincial secretary Edwin Mkhize said the union was trying to get all the unions together to find a way forward to address outstanding issues.
“We had been approached by Pawusa and Nehawu about the closure of Gale Street. Especially Pawusa, who had said their members were not properly consulted about the closure of Gale Street,” Mkhize said.
He said the union wanted to address workers’ problems such as an alleged shortage of protective clothing, intermittently broken air-conditioners and overtime pay that had not yet been ironed out between the workers and employer.
Health spokesperson Noluthando Nkosi said the department would only comment on the dispute when it was ready to do so.